Four years of home brewing, half a dozen beerfests and one pandemic later, Friction Beer Co. has found a permanent home in downtown Shawnee.
Local brewers and business partners Brent Anderson of Fairway and Nathan Ryerson of Shawnee are moving their brewing operations and opening a taproom in the old Hartman Hardware space at 11018 Johnson Drive.
Friction Beer Co. signed the lease two weeks ago and is slated for a spring 2022 opening.
Anderson said they’re “super excited and honored and motivated” to be a part of the momentum and revitalization of downtown Shawnee, particularly as visions come together to make the area a destination with other local stores and brands.
“This is not something that we had considered,” Anderson said, “but the more we talked to the city and heard their plans and how smart and progressive they were and how they really wanted to make this an area that honored the history and the community, but at the same time was really forward thinking and making this a true destination area in Kansas City… oh man, we just hit a gold mine.”
Friction Beer Co. will be the third brewery to come to downtown Shawnee in the past two years.
In addition, about a week before Friction Beer Co.’s announcement, local businessman Dan Pflumm made public his plans to refurbish the historic Shawnee State Bank building on the southwest corner of Johnson and Nieman.
A ‘fortuitous’ connection into Shawnee
Meanwhile, Anderson said he and Ryerson have been busy perfecting brewing recipes and were searching for a space to lease for brewing operations and a taproom for quite some time.
They looked into Waldo in Kansas City, Mo., as well as in North Kansas City, the West Bottoms and the Crossroads District. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, they stopped brewing altogether.
“I mean it was COVID; we weren’t getting together,” Anderson said. “We were just kind of going, like, how do we keep this alive? We were reacting like everybody else.”
Then, last fall, they were “fortuitously” connected with the Shawnee Chamber of Commerce and city staff, as well as Russ Pearson.
Pearson’s Lee’s Summit company Box Real Estate Development is behind efforts to repurpose the Hartman Hardware space and build a new mixed-use site called Blume Shawnee just down Nieman Road.
Anderson said Pearson convinced them to dream bigger than the garage space on the east side of the building, and instead consider taking over the whole two-story space.
A portion of the building had been home to Hartman Hardware for the past 74 years. The business owners, Lisa and Mike Unterreiner retired, closed the business last fall and moved out of state.
With Shawnee Shoe Repair and Tailoring recently vacating its space next door and moving down the street, Anderson said they also hope to see a food component there on the corner of Johnson Drive and Nieman Road.
“Timing is truly everything, and I think the way this all came together just made us believe in it that much more,” Anderson said. “And knowing what they’re planning for the next two to three years, that area is going to be night-and-day different very soon, and in a fantastic way.”
Brewery design and craft menu
As to the brewery and taproom design, Anderson said they’ll convert the floor at ground level into an intimate taproom with the main bar area and dedicate the garage area for brewing operations.
Meanwhile, the entire upstairs floor will serve as a large beer hall that opens onto a rooftop patio overlooking Johnson Drive.
In a way, the upstairs area will pay homage to its former glory as a dance hall a century earlier, Anderson said, noting that they’re making it once again a gathering space for the community.
They say they hope to one day host music and other live entertainment.
With Anderson’s professional background at Boulevard Brewing Company combined with Ryerson’s sales experience — and the business partners’ love of good beer — they plan to specialize in a variety of pale ales and stouts, with the occasional blonde ale and seltzers.
“If a group of friends is going out, and one of them isn’t a beer drinker, we’ll have something for you,” Anderson added, “but our identity is going to be a brewery.”